Connect with us

Los Angeles Lakers

Lakers, fans salute Kobe Bryant in emotional return to Staples Center

  • Shirts with Kobe Bryant’s jersey numbers cover all of the seats ahead of the tribute at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Members of Kobe Bryant’s Mamba Academy sit on the Lakers bench and watch pre-game warm ups at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Sound
    The gallery will resume inseconds
  • Kobe Bryant’s retired jerseys hang from the rafters at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Gianna Bryant’s photo as well as the names of the other victims are displayed on the scoreboard at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Bassist Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers conducts a pre-game interview before the Lakers game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Fans begin arriving for the Lakers/Trailblazers game and Kobe Bryant tribute at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • The two front row seats will remain empty during the game to honor Kobe and Gianna Bryant at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. Kobe and Gianni sat in theses seats the last time they watched a game at Staples Center. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Lakers forward Anthony Davis warms up before the game wearing Koby Bryant’s numbers on his shirt at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. The shirt had both of Bryant’s retired jerseys, #8 on the front and #24 on the back. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Thousands have left flowers, hats, t-shirts, shoes written notes and signed memory boards outside of LA Live across from Staples center where the Los Angeles Lakers will honor Kobe Bryant and those who died in a helicopter crash prior to a NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, January 31, 2020. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Thousands have left flowers, hats, t-shirts, shoes written notes and signed memory boards outside of LA Live across from Staples center where the Los Angeles Lakers will honor Kobe Bryant and those who died in a helicopter crash prior to a NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, January 31, 2020. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Thousands have left flowers, hats, t-shirts, shoes written notes and signed memory boards outside of LA Live across from Staples center where the Los Angeles Lakers will honor Kobe Bryant and those who died in a helicopter crash prior to a NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, January 31, 2020. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Thousands have left flowers, hats, t-shirts, shoes written notes and signed memory boards outside of LA Live across from Staples center where the Los Angeles Lakers will honor Kobe Bryant and those who died in a helicopter crash prior to a NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, January 31, 2020. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Thousands have left flowers, hats, t-shirts, shoes written notes and signed memory boards outside of LA Live across from Staples center where the Los Angeles Lakers will honor Kobe Bryant and those who died in a helicopter crash prior to a NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, January 31, 2020. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Thousands have left flowers, hats, t-shirts, shoes written notes and signed memory boards outside of LA Live across from Staples center where the Los Angeles Lakers will honor Kobe Bryant and those who died in a helicopter crash prior to a NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, January 31, 2020. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Thousands have left flowers, hats, t-shirts, shoes written notes and signed memory boards outside of LA Live across from Staples center where the Los Angeles Lakers will honor Kobe Bryant and those who died in a helicopter crash prior to a NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, January 31, 2020. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • People sign memory walls as they have also left flowers, hats, t-shirts, shoes written notes outside of LA Live across from Staples center where the Los Angeles Lakers will honor Kobe Bryant and those who died in a helicopter crash prior to a NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, January 31, 2020. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Thousands have left flowers, hats, t-shirts, shoes written notes and signed memory boards outside of LA Live across from Staples center where the Los Angeles Lakers will honor Kobe Bryant and those who died in a helicopter crash prior to a NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, January 31, 2020. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Thousands have left flowers, hats, t-shirts, shoes written notes and signed memory boards outside of LA Live across from Staples center where the Los Angeles Lakers will honor Kobe Bryant and those who died in a helicopter crash prior to a NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, January 31, 2020. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Thousands have left flowers, hats, t-shirts, shoes written notes and signed memory boards outside of LA Live across from Staples center where the Los Angeles Lakers will honor Kobe Bryant and those who died in a helicopter crash prior to a NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, January 31, 2020. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Thousands have left flowers, hats, t-shirts, shoes written notes and signed memory boards outside of LA Live across from Staples center where the Los Angeles Lakers will honor Kobe Bryant and those who died in a helicopter crash prior to a NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, January 31, 2020. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Mauricio Gonzalez of Oxnard poses for a photo as thousands have left flowers, hats, t-shirts, shoes written notes and signed memory boards outside of LA Live across from Staples center where the Los Angeles Lakers will honor Kobe Bryant and those who died in a helicopter crash prior to a NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, January 31, 2020. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Thousands have left flowers, hats, t-shirts, shoes written notes and signed memory boards outside of LA Live across from Staples center where the Los Angeles Lakers will honor Kobe Bryant and those who died in a helicopter crash prior to a NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, January 31, 2020. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Thousands have left flowers, hats, t-shirts, shoes written notes and signed memory boards outside of LA Live across from Staples center where the Los Angeles Lakers will honor Kobe Bryant and those who died in a helicopter crash prior to a NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, January 31, 2020. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Thousands have left flowers, hats, t-shirts, shoes written notes and signed memory boards outside of LA Live across from Staples center where the Los Angeles Lakers will honor Kobe Bryant and those who died in a helicopter crash prior to a NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, January 31, 2020. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • A young boy clings to his mother as thousands have left flowers, hats, t-shirts, shoes written notes and signed memory boards outside of LA Live across from Staples center where the Los Angeles Lakers will honor Kobe Bryant and those who died in a helicopter crash prior to a NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, January 31, 2020. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • People sign a memory wall as people have left flowers, hats, t-shirts, shoes written notes outside of LA Live across from Staples center where the Los Angeles Lakers will honor Kobe Bryant and those who died in a helicopter crash prior to a NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, January 31, 2020. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Flowers, hats, t-shirts, shoes written notes memory boards just some of the items outside of LA Live across from Staples center where the Los Angeles Lakers will honor Kobe Bryant and those who died in a helicopter crash prior to a NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, January 31, 2020. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Flowers, hats, t-shirts, shoes written notes memory boards just some of the items outside of LA Live across from Staples center where the Los Angeles Lakers will honor Kobe Bryant and those who died in a helicopter crash prior to a NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, January 31, 2020. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Thousands have left flowers, hats, t-shirts, shoes written notes and signed memory boards outside of LA Live across from Staples center where the Los Angeles Lakers will honor Kobe Bryant and those who died in a helicopter crash prior to a NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, January 31, 2020. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • David Kelly of Redlands looks over a memory wall as people have left flowers, hats, t-shirts, shoes written notes outside of LA Live across from Staples center where the Los Angeles Lakers will honor Kobe Bryant and those who died in a helicopter crash prior to a NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, January 31, 2020. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Singer Usher takes a moment in the seats covered with Laker jerseys with Kobe Bryant’s number 24 at the Staples Center before the Laker game on Friday, January 31, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Singer Usher takes a moment in the seats covered with Laker jerseys with Kobe Bryant’s number 24 at the Staples Center before the Laker game on Friday, January 31, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Staples Center is ready for the first Lakers game since the death of Kobe Bryant. All seats have #24 or #8 jerseys in them for the fans. (Scott Varley/SCNG)

  • LeBron James speaks to the crowd during a Kobe Bryant tribute before the Lakers/Trailblazers game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Boys II Men sing the National Anthem before the Lakers game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Boys II Men sing the National Anthem before the Lakers game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • LeBron James honors Kobe Bryant before the Lakers game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Fans turn on their cell phone lights as they fill the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Staples Center takes a 24.2 second moment of silence before the Lakers Game in Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Fans watch the pre-game tribute to Kobe Bryant at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • LeBron James wears a Kobe Bryant jersey during warmups at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • The Lakers wear Kobe Bryant jerseys as they warm up before the game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • The Lakers take the court at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Singer Usher performs “Amazing Grace” during a Kobe Bryant tribute at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Singer Usher performs “Amazing Grace” during a Kobe Bryant tribute at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • LeBron James, center, and his Lakers teammates are overcome with emotion during the pre-game tribute to Kobe Bryant at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Mayor Eric Garcetti presents the game ball to the referees at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • Singer Usher performs “Amazing Grace” during a Kobe Bryant tribute at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • LeBron James speaks to the crowd during a Kobe Bryant tribute before the Lakers/Trailblazers game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • The Lakers perform a fadeaway jumper as a team to honor Kobe Bryant before the game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

  • LeBron James speaks to the crowd during a Kobe Bryant tribute before the Lakers/Trailblazers game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

of

Expand

LOS ANGELES — The L.A. Lakers put some basketball on their city’s gaping wound Friday.

With thousands of people stationed across the street at a massive memorial, and with thousands more having made their way inside Staples Center, wiping their eyes and cheering in support of their team, the Lakers tipped off for the first time since Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas.

“Just trying to get through it,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “Feeling the same way the rest of the world is, but probably heavier.”

The city of Los Angeles mourned its adopted son all week, Bryant’s name on the lips of Angelenos everywhere – and graffitied on walls and displayed on Metro’s buses and trains.

His two decades of on-court artistry were reflected in murals that sprung up around the city. Bryant’s jersey Nos. 8 and 24, which many NBA players chose voluntarily to retire this past week, were put on by legions of regular folk, men and women, many of whom also laced up their Kobe sneakers.

Downtown, where flags outside of the arena hung at half-mast and candles flickered when the sun went down, grieving fans have remained a constant presence at L.A. Live. They’ve paid their respects by leaving jerseys, basketballs, shoes, flowers and artwork – all of which will be boxed up after Sunday and sent to the Bryant family, at their request, according to Staples Center president Lee Zeidman. He said the flowers would be converted to compost and then spread in planters and garden areas around L.A. Live and Staples Center.

Since Sunday, people have been filling and re-filling every square inch of several garage-door sized boards with testimonials, illustrations and notes of appreciation. Those canvases weren’t enough, as sentiments spilled out onto the sidewalk too.

“You were an inspiration. I named my son after you, Kobe.”

“I tore my Achilles last year. Thank U for helping me find my stride. I walked here,” wrote one fan, alluding to Bryant’s late-career injury, from which he returned to retire as the third-leading scorer in NBA history with 33,643 points

“Thank you, Kobe, for the LOVE OF BASKETBALL.”

Bryant was an 18-time All-Star who won five NBA championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during his 20-year career, all of it spent with the Lakers.

He nicknamed himself the Black Mamba and inspired devotion – or at least respect, from his adversaries – with his relentless, hard-edged work ethic.

“It feels like a family member passed away,” said Carlos Villasenor, who visited the site Friday in a replica of Bryant’s maroon Lower Merion No. 33 high school jersey.

“It’s one of those things, we didn’t really know him or meet him, but he touched a lot of people’s hearts. Just with his hustle on the court, too. That spilled out to everybody else and influences everybody else to just hustle and play. Doesn’t matter what you’re doing in life, whatever job that you have, you have to have that energy that you put into it, that focus, whatever you’re doing.”

Bryant’s former Lakers teammate Luke Walton visited L.A. Live around 2 a.m. on Thursday, in town as coach of the Sacramento Kings, who played the Clippers that night. He was taken by hearing fans chanting “Koooh-bee!” in the middle of the night.

Those chants made their way inside Staples Center – where many of Bryant’s most storied moments occurred, including his 81-point game on Jan. 22, 2006 – before the Lakers’ game Friday against the Portland Trail Blazers, where roses were left on two courtside seats, chairs draped with jerseys representing Kobe and Gianna, who was an emerging basketball sensation.

A yellow T-shirt with either a purple and white No. 8 or No. 24 was placed on every other seat in the arena.

Inside, “Ko-be” chants were interspersed with “M-V-P” and “Gigi” chants during a pregame tribute that included a 24.2-second moment of silence and a rendition of “Amazing Grace” from Usher.

Lakers players are show their emotions during a pregame tribute to Laker great Kobe Bryant at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, January 31, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Boyz II Men, the soul group from Bryant’s native Philadelphia sang the national anthem that ended with several of the Lakers players in tears.

And then LeBron James, the Lakers’ current superstar leader, delivered a message – not from a script, which he ditched, but from his heart.

“As I look around this area, we’re all grieving, we’re all hurt, we are all heartbroken,” James said. “And when we’re going through things like this, the best thing you can do is lean on the shoulders of your family.

“Now, I heard about Lakers Nation before I got here last year,” he continued, “about how much of a family it is. And that is absolutely what I’ve seen this whole week, not only from the players, not only from the coaching staff, not only from the organization, but from everybody. Everybody that’s here, this is really, truly, truly a family.”

 

 

Source Link

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Advertisement
Advertisement

More in Los Angeles Lakers